Morning Sun
  • PSU hosts 45th Math Relays

  • Dr. Helen Kriegsman remembers when the Math Relays started. After all, she was chairman of the math department at the time.

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  • Dr. Helen Kriegsman remembers when the Math Relays started. After all, she was chairman of the math department at the time.
    “Two of the men from the faculty came to me, and I was the chair at the time. They said they wanted to start this, so we did,” Kriegsman said. “The first year, we had maybe about 500 kids, just from small schools.”
    Forty-five years later, Kriegsman is still involved in the Math Relays, but to a much less extent. It’s also a much bigger event, with a strong crowd of 1,100 high school students, from both large and small schools, coming out to Pittsburg State for a competition of the mind.
    “I think it’s great that it’s grown that much,” she said. “It keeps going. I think we’re one of the first departments to prepare something like this. We thought the kids in math, not sports, ought to get some medals. But there are a lot good at both sports and math.”
    The Math Relays brought students from 57 schools to Pittsburg State to compete in 21 different events, ranging from 10th grade Algebraic Simplifications to Team Trigonometry. In team events, each of the four members of the team get five minutes to work on their portion of the test. In individual events, competitors get 15 minutes to compete.
    “Time is an issue,” said Terry Martin, Math Relays director and PSU math instructor. “They’re given 15 minutes to do the problems, and we try to make it so we can distinguish a top 3. That’s pretty tough when you have as many as 146 in one category.”
    It’s a competition that both students and teachers can enjoy. Take Mike Curran, math teacher at Baldwin High School, who has been on both sides of the coin. He said the event hasn’t changed much since he competed in it in the 1970s, and that he brings his students out to teach them lessons they can’t get in the classroom.
    “Some kids may be a big fish in a small pond, but they get into a big pond, and they see there’s a lot of big fish out there. We bring the best and brightest here,” Curran said. “...Some kids expect to do well, and others see their name on the board, and they’re elated. They just didn’t expect to do that well.”
    But Curran’s not the only high school teacher happy to bring his or her students.
    “So many high school teachers thank us. I know they’re really enjoying bringing their kids out and having success,” Martin said. “I wouldn’t say that’s the reason we’re doing it, but you know you’re serving the high schools. Some work really hard ahead of time to study. Some just bring their students out and tell them to have fun.”
    Page 2 of 2 - For Curran and others, it’s a chance to do both — have fun and take the event seriously.
    “There’s a lot of good competition here. There are private schools, as well as public schools,” he said. “The competition is huge. When you win this, you’ve done pretty well. You’ve beat a lot of bright kids.”

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